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ON THE FORTUNE OR THE VIRTUE OF ALEXANDER (DE ALEXANDRI MAGNI FORTUNA AUT VIRTUTE) I AND II
Shall we say, then, that Fortune makes men petty, timid, and abject in spirit? Yet it is not right for anyone to charge baseness to misfortune, or courage and intelligence to good fortune ; but Fortune was magnified by Alexander's reign, for in him she was illustrious, invincible, magnanimous, inoffensive, and humane. Then, immediately after Alexander's decease, Leosthenes1 said that his forces, as they wandered here and there and fell foul of their own efforts, were like the Cyclops after his blinding, groping about everywhere with his hands, which were directed at no certain goal; even thus did that vast throng roam about with no safe footing, blundering through want of a leader. Or rather, in the manner of dead bodies, after the soul departs, when they are no longer held together by natural forces, but undergo dispersion and dissolution, and finally are dissipated and disappear altogether ; even so Alexander's forces, having lost him, maintained a gasping, agitated, and fevered existence through men like Perdiccas, Meleager, Seleucus, and Antigonus, who, as it were, provided still a warm breath of life and blood that still pulsed and circulated. But at length the host wasted away and perished, generating [p. 443] about itself maggots, as it were, of ignoble kings and rulers in their last death-struggle. This, then, it is likely that Alexander himself meant when he rebuked Hephaestion2 for quarrelling with Craterus: ‘What’ said he, ‘will be your power and your achievements if someone deprive you of Alexander?’ Rut I, for my part, shall not hesitate to say this very thing to the Fortune that presided over Alexander's career : ‘What is your greatness or your repute? Where is your power or your invincibility, if someone deprive you of Alexander?’ That is to say, ‘If someone deprive you of your skill in arms, your munificent use of riches, your self-restraint in expending them, your boldness against your foes in battle, your mildness toward the vanquished? Make another great, if you can ; but one that shall not be generous with his substance, nor court danger in the front ranks, nor give honour to his friends, nor feel pity for his captives, nor be temperate in his pleasures, nor sleepless in crises, nor placable in his victories, nor humane amid his successes. What man is great in the exercise of power, if folly and wickedness attend him? Take away virtue from the fortunate man and in everything he is petty ; in acts of generosity, through parsimony ; in hard tasks, through softness ; in religion, through superstition; towards the good, through envy; among men, through cowardice ; among women, through wantonness.’ Just as inexpert artisans, who construct large pedestals for petty offerings, make the smallness of the offerings noticeable, so Fortune, whenever she elevates a petty character by acts that have a certain pomp [p. 445] and circumstance, makes the more conspicuous and disgraceful the blundering and instability that result from a shallow character.